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Quilting Queen Bee

Timna Tarr ’97 showcases her latest map quilt.

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Map quilt

Spying the psychedelic riverine lines lashing through Timna Tarr’s “Mississippi Meander” map quilt from a distance, even if you don’t know it’s a depiction of a river, you know it is something fiercely alive. On closer examination, you marvel: “This is a quilt?”

Map quilts can often be found hanging in historical societies and town halls. “Historically, it’s a thing—to show where you are through art,” verifies Tarr ’97, an art history alumna. While her earliest cartographical creations were quite literal, they became increasingly abstract, interpretive, and modern as her work evolved.

Tarr’s latest map quilt (pictured above) is based on a 1944 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map of a section of the Mississippi River and its overlapping courses over time.

“I can see the through line in my work,” says Tarr. She learned to reduce areas to component parts to solve problems artisti­cally as well as technically.

Tarr leads workshops in quilt making, lugging an enormous pink suitcase that, in defiance of physics, holds 14 teaching quilts. She sends quilts from her South Hadley, Massachusetts, workshop around the country and internationally—well insured, of course—to be judged in competitions for their demonstration of sewing skill, design, and technical prowess.

As for her own artistic influence, Tarr has a fondness for quilts from the 1930s and ’40s, particularly, which are “scrappy, with tons of fabrics, because that’s how I work.” 

Timna Tarr